Why Reese Witherspoon is one of Hollywood’s greatest mainstays.
Defying both her own and Hollywood’s expectations, Reese Witherspoon’s pursuit of excellence continues in the face of a bewilderingly complex schedule.
Now into her fifth decade, the actress is passionate, modest and at times overly self-critical, always remaining one step away from the madness of an industry that consumes so many.
What’s clear is this is someone who now feels more enlightened, empowered, and emboldened than at any other time in her life. She’s suffered through an abusive relationship, has rebooted an ailing career, and even four years after the conclusion of Big Little Lies – the series she developed, produced and starred in – is still savouring its incredible success.
“Work has never scared me,” she begins, “it’s just nice to continue to have the opportunity to prove yourself and show what you have to offer, and that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.
“What I will say is working hard and being successful are not linked, but working hard as a route to changing things in life, I would support that.
“I now know I need to be active. I need to work with people who are pulling in the same direction as I am.”
On a similar topic, Witherspoon has always done well to steer a path away from Hollywood scandals – either discussing those of others, or revealing her own. “I never see the good in besmirching or belittling – who wins from that?” she says.
“I believe my job is to act, and that’s it. Everything else seems largely unimportant. On occasions I do stand up for a cause it is largely because I feel an injustice needs to be corrected,” she offers, referencing her proactivity when it comes to female-driven projects, something that has also shaped her plethora of producer roles.
“It’s definitely my goal to create more female-driven projects; to give more opportunities to women at every level; but not at the expense of producing drama and art that means something.
“Yes I was so frustrated by the lack of good roles for women, and that’s what motivated me to get Big Little Lies made, but it’s no charity escapade – it’s all based on creating powerful drama where women are presented as complex and intelligent and active individuals.”
While humility and honesty has been at the core of the 46-year-old’s ability to last the course, Witherspoon admits the true leveller in life has been her children – Ava, 23, Deacon 19 (from actor Ryan Phillippe) and Tennessee, 10 (from current husband Jim Toth, the talent agent).
Approaching motherhood with all the humour and bravado of some of most comedic roles – Legally Blonde, Pleasantville and Sweet Home Alabama included – the actress is largely of the opinion that if it isn’t fun, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. “I think we owe it to our children to decorate those early years with as much happiness and humour as possible,” she says. “I firmly believe the way we encourage our young people to view the world from a very early age is what is going to make them into brilliant, interesting, kind adults.”
Ahead of the release of new movie Your Place or Mine, in which she stars alongside Jason Bateman and Ashton Kutcher, Witherspoon admits it’s been nice to return to the happy safety of romcoms, even if they don’t offer the most cutting-edge brand of cinematic drama.
“The thing with romcoms is you know what you’re going to get,” she says. “You can mix up the narrative slightly with an action romantic comedy, or something similar, but ultimately the ending has already been played out for you, and everyone knows it.
“I wouldn’t say I shied away from romcoms by any stretch, but it’s probably fair to say they sit in one of the easiest genres – it’s really just good scriptwriting and good acting. You don’t need big special effects, a convoluted plot or a series of clever twists – just tell the story and let love do that rest!”